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December 11, 2008

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Knack

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 3:12 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham, Portfolio, 274 pages, $25.95, Hardcover, October 2008, ISBN 9781591842217
Most entrepreneurship books just don't deliver. The wide variability in fledging businesses makes it nearly impossible to write a universal prescription for success. Books about the entrepreneur who made it big are often filled with more celebrity and celebration than hard-won lessons and real life pain. I am happy to suggest a wonderful exception to this unfortunate rule.
The Knack opens with the story of Bobby and Helene Stone. Bobby has just lost his job and decides to join his wife's computer supply business that she runs out of the couple's home. Helene is not sure it is such a good idea, but Bobby is enthusiastic. And through the Stone's story, authors Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham tell the quintessential tale of every entrepreneur--the seed of a new enterprise, the quest for independence, and the fear of failure (and bankruptcy).
Brodsky, an eight-time start-up founder, counsels the couple and walks them through the creation of a simple business plan with them. He shows the dream is possible, but it will take hard work and a significant portion of their savings. The first several months are difficult as Bobby takes low margin orders to make the sales number. The authors' show just how corrosive those actions are to a fledging business as the couple is forced to dip further into their savings to keep the company afloat. The Stones reach a point of self-sustainability about a year later. The couple appears again in the final chapter detailing the challenges of hiring their son to expand the sales force, venturing onto the Internet and landing a large distribution deal.
Becoming the boss, dealing with investors, hiring the best (and firing those who don't work out) is just a sampling of the additional stories you'll find in The Knack. It is rich and relatable stories like these that have made Brodsky and Burlingham's "Street Smarts" column in Inc. Magazine so compelling over the last 14 years. Brodsky has an endless supply of stories from the start-ups he has launched and the countless entrepreneurs he has helped over the years. And Burlingham's role in this production should not be overlooked as he lends his editorial might to the effective telling of these real-life lessons. The pair delivers an outstanding book in The Knack, one that I am happy to recommend to any current or aspiring entrepreneur.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.